Boston welcomed Latinx Heritage Month Sunday afternoon with a pair of celebrations at City Hall, where music rang from both ends of the plaza.
To the west, a shared Independence Day celebration for five Central American countries; to the east, a concert kicking off the city’s month-long Fiesta en La Plaza series, which lasts through Oct. 14.
Jose Masso III, host of WBUR’s ¡Con Salsa! music program, emceed the fiesta, which began with live music and dance shortly after 1 p.m. He welcomed the crowd with a bilingual address in Spanish and English.
“You don’t know how blessed I feel right now,” Masso told the crowd of a few dozen spectators, who sat and stood on the City Hall step.
As he spoke, dancers from the Hyde Square Task Force, wearing papier-mâché sea creatures on their heads and white skirts that billowed in the breeze, filled the space in front of the stage.
To stage right, a handful of dancers on stilts, members of the Agua, Sol y Serano troupe, stepped to the beat of Latin jazz.
In an interview, Masso said the fiesta — and its central location in the heart of downtown — demonstrates Boston’s commitment to embracing its Latinx community “being part of the [city’s] fabric at all levels,” not just relegated to traditionally Latinx neighborhoods, like East Boston.
“It’s a way of saying that our growing community ... are very much part of the fabric of this city,” Masso said. “We are here, we belong. We are very much part of the present, and very much part of the future.”
As Raiz De Plena filled the plaza with a lively blend of brass, hand drums, and 12-string and bass guitar, Boston resident Javier Mendez danced alongside old friends and folks he had met just a few minutes earlier.
“Boston is [a] very diverse city, and this kind of event is a symbol of the diversity we need to always maintain,” Mendez said. “It’s a great thing to celebrate that.”
Mendez said he was looking forward to salsa dancing later in the day — and the day’s weather was perfect for dancing.
The concert followed — and overlapped — the second Latinx celebration, on the other side of City Hall, organized by Alianza Civica Cultural Centroamericana.
That celebration began shortly after 11 a.m. with a ceremony honoring the independence of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Each country marked 202 years of sovereignty Friday.
“Today we’re going to celebrate the independence of Central America,” Fredy Morales, an organizer with Alianza Civica Cultural Centroamericana, told the crowd of a few dozen.
Morales spoke in Spanish through a translator, drawing bouts of applause from the crowd as he named each of the five countries. Above him, the Central American flag danced in the wind next to those of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — temporarily taking the place of Boston’s flag, per an order by Mayor Michelle Wu.
Just before 11:40 a.m., the crowd walked across the plaza, led by a line of five marchers, children and adults, each carrying one of the five countries’ flags.
“We are here in a very special moment, sharing all the beauty of Central America,” Morales said. “What a joy to be united celebrating such a beautiful moment.”
An hours-long series of national anthems and traditional musical performances followed.
Randolph resident Annattie Pinnoch, 55, watched as Guatemalan dancers took the plaza. She wore a shirt that read “Pura Vida,” a Spanish phrase that translates to “pure life” and is a common motto in her home country of Costa Rica.
Pinnoch said she felt “very proud” of Boston’s attempts at “uniting the Central American people,” who she said share a sense of community.
“We [are] all together, we [are] all the same family,” Pinnoch said. “We miss home, but this is home when we unite.”
The Fiesta en La Plaza series features another four events from now until Oct. 14, according to the mayor’s office.
On Friday, from 7 to 9 p.m., artists including poet Yara Liceaga and Cuatro player Fabiola Méndez will take the stage for a celebration of women’s voices. The next night, visitors can learn to salsa to live music by Clave & Blues, from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
CineFest Latino Boston will come to the plaza Oct. 5 from 3 to 8 p.m., featuring a pair of Latin films.
The fiesta concludes Oct. 14 from 2 to 7 p.m. The final day’s festivities include a discussion of Afro-Latin arts, additional performances by the Hyde Square Task Force’s youth dance group, and music by Venezuelan harpist Eduardo Betancourt.